In the process of writing my book, a publicist from Chronicle Books suggested I write a book on how to survive crises. I dismissed it because I didn’t think the world needed more drama or talk about crises. We all have had enough of that, correct? It is the reason Maria Shriver left journalism – no more Anna Nicole Smith-type stories.
I kept this idea in mind, however, wondering if there was any good I could bring to the subject without drama. I realized the answer is “yes,” and it is what defines resiliency – something we all must have. So this goes out to all of you that might not have always had things break your way.
Let’s stop for a moment to think what happens when things don’t go the way we’d hoped. Do we freak out, scream, drink, and indulge in destructive behavior or something else? This is where surviving and navigating life well comes in. I remember when the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred and President Obama said that we should all go home and hug our children tighter. I didn’t rest easy with that even though it is a common sentiment. Why? It is because yes, in a difficult time it is right to go hold close those that are dear to us – children or other – but there’s something missing. What? If we just retract into what is comfortable and close we miss the boat. There is a step two that is much bigger than our close relations, and that is community and society at large – reach out and expand. Can you imagine a world where we hold close those that are, but equally we reach out in the world to connect to make things better for everyone. Wow. If that could happen, wouldn’t it be a game changer? In my experience of challenge, there is retraction, but expansion must immediately follow to point things in a positive direction. If we hold on too tight, it is possible to lose perspective, particularly in matters of urgency or emergency.
I thought it was more than intimidating when someone first referred me to “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why?” by Gonzales. It is a poignant review of what works and what doesn’t, and it is clear what happens when people hold outcomes too close – it isn’t good. Gonzales discusses true stories of survival where the difference between life and death often is in knowing your capacity, and having strong perception, humility, resourcefulness and humor. Humor is critical to diffuse stress and trauma when you need to. For instance, let’s think of fighter pilots, they joke around and shoot the sh*t before they go out to ease tension. Can you imagine if they were pensive and foreboding before going into a hostile situation? Not going to work. I know this just as well, however miniscule, from sports psychology I learned as a competitive athlete. You can legitimately psyche yourself up or out.
What works? I have seen my fair share of adventure and challenge in life, and made it all work only to go deeper to help others. Check in with those you love, hold them close, and open up to look for connections everywhere. Don’t just retract, expand. I am off soon on a trekking adventure to return to some important roots, and once again not to retract (easy to do with 3 kids) but to expand and connect. My goal to help people and the planet is a big one. As we all hit the trails and expeditions of our choosing this summer, make it good, make it count and find a way. We are all here at a very important time in history, called to make a difference.